The Oscars are, once again, no stranger to controversy

By Liv Barry
Elm Staff Writer

On Sunday, March 27, the 94th Academy Awards were held in Hollywood’s Dolby Theater. It was the first time in over two years that the awards ceremony was held in its full capacity, after the attendance of the 93rd Academy Awards was significantly downsized due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just because the ceremony felt like a return to normalcy didn’t mean that the 2022 Oscars were entirely normal, however.

This year’s awards have been plagued with controversy since nominations were announced in February when the producer of this year’s telecast, Director and Producer Will Packer, decided to cut eight technical categories: sound, score, film editing, documentary short, animated short, live action short, makeup and hair styling, and production design.

Movie fans and celebrities alike were upset with the decision, voicing their disappointment on social media.

Comedian Patton Oswalt took to Twitter on Feb. 23 to express his thoughts on the cutting of the categories.

“PLEASE re-think this, and televise these categories. You’ll be bragging about having this footage in the future. BE about the future, not about the present, ephemeral froth of clicks and likes. Please,” Patton said.

While the decision to cut categories was made to pare down the ceremony’s run-time, the 2022 Oscars clocked in at about three hours and 30 minutes.

According to IndieWire, this year’s ceremony ran 39 minutes longer than its allotted time.

Packer also stirred up controversy with his attempts to maintain the ceremony’s relevance to at-home viewers.

After the 2021 Oscars saw low viewership, Packer made his intentions for the 2022 show clear: he wanted the at-home audience’s opinions to be paramount to this year’s ceremony.

To keep at-home audiences engaged, Packer introduced multiple fan-voted categories.

Audiences at home could vote for their favorite movie moments on Twitter or on the Oscars’ website, but the inclusion of these fan-voted categories left many viewers scratching their heads.

There were few parameters set for the eligibility of the fan-voted films, so critically panned movies like Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” and Amazon Prime’s “Cinderella” were recognized by their respective fanbases.

In another confusing try for relevancy, pre-recorded videos occupied much of the ceremony’s runtime.

Toward the beginning of the night’s festivities, Tony Hawk, Shaun White, and Kelly Slater introduced a tribute to the James Bond franchise. The editing style of the pre-recorded tribute resembled fan-made edits that garner millions of views on Instagram and TikTok.

Whether or not the stylistic choice was intentional has yet to be determined, but it appeared to be another attempt at relevancy for Gen Z audiences.

While Packer desperately tried to keep the audience’s attention, nothing that he planned beforehand could have engaged audiences as much as the altercation that occurred between Actor Will Smith and Best Documentary presenter Chris Rock.

After Rock commented on Jada Pinkett Smith’s appearance, calling her “GI-Jane.” Smith walked onto the stage and smacked Rock, reprimanding him for the joke.

Pinkett Smith appeared uncomfortable with the joke after its delivery, and has spoken openly about her struggles with alopecia, which causes her hair to fall out to the point where she keeps her head shaved.

Mere minutes after the altercation, Smith won best leading actor for his portrayal of Venus and Serena Williams’ father, Richard Williams, in “King Richard.” Smith alluded to the spat in his acceptance speech.

“Making this film I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the most strongest, most delicate people I ever met. I got to protect Saniyya and Demi, the two actresses that played Venus and Serena. I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people,” Smith said.

The night was filled with historic wins. Smith is only the fifth black man to win best leading actor.

Ariana DeBose was the first openly queer woman of color to win an award, taking home the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role as Anita in the “West Side Story” remake.

Her historic win is a legacy moment, as Rita Moreno won best supporting actress for the same role at the 1962 Oscars.

“CODA,” a movie following the only hearing child of a deaf family, took home best picture. Troy Kotsur, who won best supporting actor for his role in the film, was the second deaf performer to win an Oscar.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

Featured Photo Caption: While the 94th Academy Awards droned on with over three-hours of run-time, moments like Will Smith striking Chris Rock made for a memorable evening.

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